USS Cyclops (AC-4)
The USS Cyclops in the Hudson River, 1911.
|Builder:||William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia|
|Launched:||7 May 1910|
|Commissioned:||1 May 1917|
|Fate:||Lost at sea, March 1918|
|Class & type:||Proteus-class collier|
|Displacement:||19,360 long tons (19,670 t) full|
|Length:||542 ft (165 m)|
|Beam:||65 ft (20 m)|
|Draft:||27 ft 8 in (8.43 m)|
|Speed:||15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)|
|Complement:||236 officers and enlisted|
|Armament:||4 × 4 in (100 mm) guns|
Passengers and Crew
USS Cyclops (AC-4) was one of four Proteus-class colliers built for the United States Navy several years before World War I. Named for the Cyclops, a primordial race of giants from Greek mythology, she was the second U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name. The loss of the ship and 306 crew and passengers without a trace within the area known as the Bermuda Triangle some time after 4 March 1918 remains the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history not directly involving combat. As it was wartime, there was speculation she was captured or sunk by a German raider or submarine, because she was carrying 10,800 long tons (11,000 t) of manganese ore used to produce munitions, but German authorities at the time, and subsequently, denied any knowledge of the vessel. The Naval History & Heritage Command has stated she "probably sank in an unexpected storm" but the cause is unknown.
Cyclops was launched on 7 May 1910, by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and placed in service on 7 November 1910, with Lieutenant Commander George Worley, Master, Naval Auxiliary Service, in command. Operating with the Naval Auxiliary Service, Atlantic Fleet, she voyaged in the Baltic from May–July 1911 to supply Second Division ships. Returning to Norfolk, Virginia, she operated on the east coast from Newport, Rhode Island, to the Caribbean, servicing the fleet. During the troubled conditions in Mexico in 1914–1915, she coaled ships on patrol there and received the thanks of the U.S. State Department for cooperation in evacuating refugees.
With American entry into World War I, Cyclops was commissioned on 1 May 1917, and her skipper, George W. Worley, was promoted to full commander. She joined a convoy for Saint-Nazaire, France in June 1917, returning to the U.S. in July. Except for a voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia, she served along the east coast until 9 January 1918, when she was assigned to Naval Overseas Transportation Service. She then sailed to Brazilian waters to fuel British ships in the south Atlantic, receiving the thanks of the State Department and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific.
She put to sea from Rio de Janeiro on 16 February 1918 and entered Bahia on 20 February. Two days later, she departed for Baltimore, Maryland, with no stops scheduled, carrying the manganese ore. The ship was thought to be overloaded when she left Brazil, as her maximum capacity was 8,000 long tons (8,100 t). Before leaving port, Commander Worley had submitted a report that the starboard engine had a cracked cylinder and was not operative. This report was confirmed by a survey board, which recommended, however, that the ship be returned to the U.S. She made an unscheduled stop in Barbados because the water level was over the Plimsoll line, indicating an overloaded condition; however investigations in Rio proved the ship had been loaded and secured properly. Cyclops then set out for Baltimore on 4 March, and was rumored to have been sighted on 9 March by the molasses tanker Amolco near Virginia, but this was denied by Amolco's captain. Additionally, because Cyclops was not due in Baltimore until 13 March, it is highly unlikely that the ship would have been near Virginia on 9 March, as that location would have placed her only about a day from Baltimore. In any event, Cyclops never made it to Baltimore, and no wreckage of her has ever been found. Reports indicate that on 10 March, the day after the ship was rumored to have been sighted by Amolco, a violent storm swept through the Virginia Capes area. While some suggest that the combination of the overloaded condition, engine trouble, and bad weather may have conspired to sink Cyclops, an extensive naval investigation concluded: "Many theories have been advanced, but none that satisfactorily accounts for her disappearance." This summation was written, however, before two of Cyclops's sister ships, Proteus and Nereus, vanished in the North Atlantic during World War II. Both ships were transporting heavy loads of metallic ore similar to that which was loaded on Cyclops during her fatal voyage. In both cases, it was theorized that their loss was the result of catastrophic structural failure, but a more outlandish theory attributes all three vessels' disappearances to the Bermuda Triangle.
Rear Admiral George van Deurs suggested that the loss of Cyclops could be owing to structural failure, as her sister ships suffered from issues where the I-beams that ran the length of the ship had eroded owing to the corrosive nature of some of the cargo carried. This was observed definitively on the USS Jason, and is believed to have contributed to the sinking of another similar freighter, Chuky, which snapped in two in calm seas. Moreover, Cyclops may have hit a storm with 30–40 kn (56–74 km/h; 35–46 mph) winds. These would have resulted in waves just far enough apart to leave the bow and stern supported on the peaks of successive waves, but with the middle unsupported, resulting in extra strain on the already weakened middle.
On 1 June 1918, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Cyclops to be officially lost and all hands deceased. One of the seamen lost aboard Cyclops was African American mess attendant Lewis H. Hardwick, the father of Herbert Lewis Hardwick, "The Cocoa Kid", an Afro Puerto Rican welterweight boxer who was a top contender in the 1930s and 1940s who won the world colored welterweight and world colored middleweight championships. In 1918, a short summary of the loss of Cyclops was listed in the US Navy Annual Report.
For a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Tom Mangold had an expert from Lloyds investigate the loss of Cyclops. The expert noted that manganese ore, being much denser than coal, had room to move within the holds even when fully laden, the hatch covers were canvas and that when wet the ore can become a slurry. As such the load could shift and cause the ship to list. Combined with a possible loss of power from its one engine it could founder in bad weather.
Investigations by the Office of Naval Intelligence revealed that Captain Worley was born Johan Frederick Wichmann in Sandstedt, Hanover, Germany in 1862, and that he had entered America by jumping ship in San Francisco in 1878. By 1898, he had changed his name to Worley (after a seaman friend), and owned and operated a saloon in San Francisco's Barbary Coast. He also got help from brothers whom he had convinced to emigrate. During this time he had qualified for the position of ship's master, and had commanded several civilian merchant ships, picking up and delivering cargo (both legal and illegal; some accounts say opium) from the Far East to San Francisco. Unfortunately, the crews of these ships reported that Worley suffered from a personality allegedly akin to that of HMS Bounty's captain William Bligh; the crew often being brutalized by Worley for trivial things.
Naval investigators discovered information from former crew members about Worley's habits. He would berate and curse officers and men for minor offenses, sometimes getting violent; at one point, he had allegedly chased an ensign about the ship with a pistol. Saner times would find him making his rounds about the ship dressed in long underwear and a derby hat. Worley sometimes would have an inexperienced officer in charge of loading cargo on the ship while the more experienced man was confined to quarters. In Rio de Janeiro, one such man was assigned to oversee the loading of manganese ore, something a collier was not used to carrying, and in this instance the ship was overloaded, which may have contributed to her sinking. The most serious accusation against Worley was that he was pro-German in wartime and may have colluded with the enemy; indeed, his closest friends and associates were either German or Americans of German descent. "Many Germanic names appear," Livingston stated, speculating that the ship had many German sympathizers on board. One of the passengers on the final voyage was Alfred Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the consul-general in Rio de Janeiro, who was as roundly hated for his pro-German sympathies as was Worley. Livingston stated he believed Gottschalk may have been directly involved in collaborating with Worley on handing the ship over to the Germans. After World War I, German records were checked to ascertain the fate of Cyclops, whether by Worley's hand or by submarine attack. Nothing was found.
Near the time the search for Cyclops was called off, a telegram was received by the State Department from Charles Ludlow Livingston, the U.S. consul on Barbados:
- Secretary of State
- Washington, D.C.
- 17,, 2 April p.m.
- Department's 15th. Confidential. Master CYCLOPS stated that required six hundred tons coal having sufficient on board to reach Bermuda. Engines very poor condition. Not sufficient funds and therefore requested payment by me. Unusually reticent. I have ascertained he took here ton fresh meat, ton flour, thousand pounds vegetables, paying therefore 775 dollars. From different sources gather the following: he had plenty of coal, alleged inferior, took coal to mix, probably had more than fifteen hundred tons. Master alluded to by others as damned Dutchman, apparently disliked by other officers. Rumored disturbances en route hither, men confined and one executed; also had some prisoners from the fleet in Brazilian waters, one life sentence. United States Consul-General Gottschalk passenger, 231 crew exclusive of officers and passengers. Have names of crew but not of all the officers and passengers. Many Germanic names appear. Number telegraphic or wireless messages addressed to master or in care of ship were delivered at this port. All telegrams for Barbadoes on file head office St. Thomas. I have to suggest scrutiny there. While not having any definite grounds I fear fate worse than sinking though possibly based on instinctive dislike felt towards master.
- LIVINGSTON, CONSUL.
Some reports attribute the telegram to Brockholst Livingston, but he was actually the 13-year-old son of the Consul.
- The disappearance of Cyclops is a plot element in the 1986 novel Cyclops by Clive Cussler.
- In the Quantum Leap TV episode "Ghost Ship", Cyclops is said to have picked up a downed air man (Captain Cooper) during World War II, 26 years after she was lost at sea.
- In the 2006 cartoon Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!, the characters spot Cyclops while sailing through the Bermuda Triangle.
- In the 2010 video game Dark Void, the main character discovers and explores Cyclops.
- "Cold High Winds Do $25,000 Damage'" Washington Post, 11 March 1918.
- "Collier Overdue A Month", New York Times, 15 April 1918.
- "More Ships Hunt For Missing Cyclops", New York Times, 16 April 1918.
- "Haven't Given Up Hope For Cyclops", New York Times, 17 April 1918.
- "Collier Cyclops Is Lost; 293 Persons On Board; Enemy Blow Suspected", Washington Post, 15 April 1918.
- "U.S. Consul Gottschalk Coming To Enter The War", Washington Post, 15 April 1918.
- "Cyclops Skipper Teuton, 'Tis Said", Washington Post, 16 April 1918.
- "Fate Of Ship Baffles", Washington Post, 16 April 1918.
- "Steamer Met Gale On Cyclops' Course", Washington Post, 19 April 1918.
- "Navy Believes Cyclops' Fate Is Cleared Up". St. Petersburg Times. 1929. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- "Navy Probes 12-Year Mystery Of Sinking of Cyclops". The Southeast Missourian. 1930. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- "The Cyclops Vanished". The Age. 1939-10-07. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- Wynne, Vance (1942). "The Mystery Of The Cyclops". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- "Navy Reopens Search". Sarasota Journal. 1973. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- "Has Cyclops been found?". The Free Lance-Star. 1973. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- "Bermuda Triangle". Naval History & Heritage Command. United States Navy. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Reck, Alfred P. (June 1929). "Strangest American Sea Mystery is Solved at Last". Popular Science: 15–17. Retrieved 8 July 2009. In this article, Amolco was erroneously called Amalco.
- USS Cyclops
- USS Henry R. Mallory
- Quasar, Gian J. "USS Cyclops (page 3)". Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Quasar, Gian J. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- However see The Washington Times 19 April 1918 page 11 column 2
- Quasar, Gian J. "USS Cyclops (page 2)". Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- USN Ships-USS CYCLOPS (1910–1918)
- Canadian Merchant Ship Losses of the Second World War, 1939–1945
- Eyers, Jonathan (2011). Don't Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions. A&C Black, London, UK. ISBN 978-1-4081-3131-2.
- Harris, John (1981). Without Trace. Bungay, Suffolk: Richard Clay ltd. pp. 179–182.
- Cutler, Thomas J. (2005). A sailor's history of the U.S. Navy. Naval Institute Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-59114-151-8. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Toledo, Springs. ""JUST WATCH MAH SMOKE" Part 1: Lost at Sea". The Sweet Science. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- Annual Reports of the Navy Department: Report of the Secretary of the Navy 1918
- Mangold, Tom Inside the Bermuda Triangle: the Mysteries Solved BBC Radio 4 2009.
- Rosenberg, Howard L. (June 1974). "Bermuda Triangle". Sealift. United States Navy. pp. 11–15. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- Letter on Gottschalk
- Barrash, Marvin. (2010). U.S.S. CYCLOPS. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, Inc. ISBN 0-7884-5186-3
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- "Cyclops ". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
- "AC-4 Cyclops". Service Ship Photo Archive. Retrieved 3 January 2007.[dead link]
- NUMA site and Clive Cussler's brief report on the Cyclops.
- Westminster, MD: Barrash, Marvin. (2010). U.S.S. CYCLOPS Heritage Books, Inc. ISBN 0-7884-5186-3
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to USS Cyclops (AC-4).|
- The Bermuda Triangle Database: A Passage to Oblivion: The disappearance of USS Cyclops
- Reck, Alfred P. "Strangest American Sea Mystery Is Solved At Last?", Popular Science, June 1929, p. PA15, at Google Books